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12/11/13 -  Granma International (Havana) - Mandela and Fidel: What is not being said

ATILIO BORĂ“N

THE death of Nelson Mandela has precipitated a torrent of interpretations
on his life and work, all of which present him as a disciple of pacifism
and a kind of Mother Teresa of South Africa. This is an essentially
incorrect, and premeditated, image, promoted to obscure the fact that after
the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, the African National Congress (ANC)
adopted a strategy of armed struggle and sabotage of enterprises and
important economic projects, but without endangering human life.

Mandela toured diverse African countries in search of economic and military
aid to sustain this new tactic of struggle. He was detained in 1962 and,
shortly afterward, sentenced to life imprisonment, 25 years of which he
spent relegated to a maximum security prison, in a cell measuring 2x2
meters. Only as a result of formidable international pressure to attain his
release, these conditions improved in the last two years of his detention.

Thus, Mandela was not a "worshipper of bourgeois legality," but an
exceptional political leader whose strategy and tactics of struggle varied
as the conditions under which his battles were waged changed. It is said
that he was the man who ended the odious South African apartheid regime,
which is a half truth.

The other half of the merit goes to Fidel and the Cuban Revolution, which
by intervening in the civil war in Angola, sealed the fate of the racists,
defeating the troops of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo),
the South African army and two Angolan mercenary armies, organized and
financed by the United States through the CIA. Thanks to Cuba's heroic
cooperation, which once again demonstrated the noble internationalism of
the Cuban Revolution, Angolan independence was maintained, laying the bases
for the subsequent emancipation of Namibia and delivering a coup de grace
to South African apartheid.

For that reason, after learning about the crucial battle of Cuito
Cuanavale, on March 23, 1988, Mandela wrote from prison that the outcome of
what he called the African Stalingrad "was the turning point for the
liberation of our continent-and of my people-from the scourge of
apartheid." The defeat of the racists and their U.S. mentors was a mortal
blow to the South African occupation of Namibia and precipitated the
beginning of negotiations with the ANC which, shortly thereafter, would
demolish the racist South African regime, the joint work of those two giant
statesmen and revolutionaries.

Years later, in the 1995 Cuban-South Africa Solidarity Conference, Mandela
affirmed, "The Cubans came to our region as doctors, teachers, soldiers,
agricultural experts, but never as colonizers. They have shared the same
trenches with us in the struggle against colonialism, underdevelopment, and
apartheid.We vow never to forget this unparalleled example of selfless
internationalism." This is a good reminder for those who yesterday and
today talk of the Cuban "invasion" of Angola.

Cuba paid an enormous price for this noble act of international solidarity
which, as Mandela noted, was the turning point of the struggle against
racism in Africa. From 1975 to 1991, close to 450,000 Cuban men and women
served in Angola, risking their lives. Over 2,600 died fighting to defeat
the racist regime of Pretoria and its allies. The death of the
extraordinary leader who was Nelson Mandela provides an excellent
opportunity to honor their battle and, additionally, the internationalist
heroism of Fidel and the Cuban Revolution.


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